Monday, July 30, 2012

Good Morning. We're In First Place Again.

Marco Scutaro, gifting the Dodgers another run on Sunday.

Here's your morning reading:

LAT's Dylan Hernandez: The Dodgers' sweep in SF feels like a turning point:

SAN FRANCISCO — It was only three games, and more than two months remain in the regular season.

But the Dodgers' three-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants, which concluded Sunday with Clayton Kershaw's five-hit shutout in a 4-0 victory at AT&T Park, felt significant.

These wins felt like statements. They felt as if they might have changed the course of the season.

The Dodgers won seven games on a 10-game trip that included visits to New York and St. Louis, but gained something far more significant than three games in the National League West standings, which now show them in a virtual first-place tie with the Giants.

They added Hanley Ramirez.

Ramirez has altered the Dodgers' previously non-threatening offense, providing it with a third dangerous bat in the middle of the order to complement Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.

The 3-4-5 spots in the lineup — or 2-3-4, depending on how Manager Don Mattingly decides to align his three All-Star-caliber hitters — has become an understandable source of concern for opposing pitchers. Mattingly believes the stress of facing Kemp, Ethier and Ramirez in succession results in a wavering of concentration when pitching to the players behind them.

"When you have to really, really work to get through those guys, you have to concentrate more," Mattingly said. "It's just natural you let down a little bit. You can only make so many good pitches. So the guys that are down benefit."

Having been there, I can definitely say that it did indeed feel like a turning point. The Giants are on their heels and their fans could feel it. Marco Scutaro's lost infield popup, which led to the Dodgers' second run of the day, let out a sigh from the stadium so audible that it felt like everyone had been punched in the gut at the same time.

Look, there's still a lot of time in this season. But this was a big series sweep, no doubt.

So echoes Hankie Schulman of the SF Comical (an unabashed Dodgers hater):

With Hanley Ramirez giving his new team a jolt of electricity and the Dodgers throwing consecutive shutouts in San Francisco for the first time, a neutral observer must conclude that they are now the team to beat.

Giants players are not neutral observers, of course.

When Angel Pagan was asked about the Giants' frustration level, he replied, "Why frustration? We just lost three games. We're still tied for first place. There are a lot of ballgames left. We've got to turn the page, then just play with a better attitude, I guess."

Pagan is right. Two months is a lot of baseball to play and momentum can be fickle, as this year's division race has shown.

However, the Dodgers have to feel good about their chances now that they are winning, have a big new bat and know their new owners still have money burning holes in their pockets as Tuesday's trade deadline approaches.

On the other side, Giants general manager Brian Sabean is trying to lower expectations of a move as significant as the Ramirez deal, partly because of the paucity of available hitters, partly because he has little payroll wiggle room. Instead, he is trying to fill holes incrementally.

Again, there's a lot of time. The Giants could still make a big move (word broke yesterday evening that the Giants had locked up Hunter Pence from the Phillies, but nothing has been confirmed) before the deadline. We'll see.

photo: Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images


Dusty Baker said...

Fuck that lanky asshole Pence.

Unless we get him; then that would be great.

Fred's Brim said...

There is a LOT of time left.
I like our chances too but it was just three days ago we thought we'd be getting or asses swept again. Gotta keep grinding

Steve Sax said...

(Fred's Brim goes back to the dance floor)

Dusty Baker said...

(keeps grinding)

Fred's Brim said...

they call me "Coffee" because I grind so fine